New Blog Post and New Papers

Today I published a new German blog post, titled Parallele Evolution in der Benennung von Unverpacktläden. At the same time, two papers appeared online. The first one is a prediction study with T. A. Bodt, published in Diachronica:

While analysing lexical data of Western Kho-Bwa languages of the Sino-Tibetan or Trans-Himalayan family with the help of a computer-assisted approach for historical language comparison, we observed gaps in the data where one or more varieties lacked forms for certain concepts. We employed a new workflow, combining manual and automated steps, to predict the most likely phonetic realisations of the missing forms in our data, by making systematic use of the information on sound correspondences in words that were potentially cognate with the missing forms. This procedure yielded a list of hypothetical reflexes of previously identified cognate sets, which we first preregistered as an experiment on the prediction of unattested word forms and then compared with actual word forms elicited during secondary fieldwork. In this study we first describe the workflow which we used to predict hypothetical reflexes and the process of elicitation of actual word forms during fieldwork. We then present the results of our reflex prediction experiment. Based on this experiment, we identify four general benefits of reflex prediction in historical language comparison. These comprise (1) an increased transparency of linguistic research, (2) an increased efficiency of field and source work, (3) an educational aspect which offers teachers and learners a wide plethora of linguistic phenomena, including the regularity of sound change, and (4) the possibility of kindling speakers’ interest in their own linguistic heritage.

The second study is based on our initial experiments with interlinear-glossed text, published in TALLIP, together with N. Sims and R. Forkel, which is not available in open access, but our authors copy can be found here:

While the amount of digitally available data on the worlds’ languages is steadily increasing, with more and more languages being documented, only a small proportion of the language resources produced are sustainable. Data reuse is often difficult due to idiosyncratic formats and a negligence of standards that could help to increase the comparability of linguistic data. The sustainability problem is nicely reflected in the current practice of handling interlinear-glossed text, one of the crucial resources produced in language documentation. Although large collections of glossed texts have been produced so far, the current practice of data handling makes data reuse difficult. In order to address this problem, we propose a first framework for the computer-assisted, sustainable handling of interlinear-glossed text resources. Building on recent standardization proposals for word lists and structural datasets, combined with state-of-the-art methods for automated sequence comparison in historical linguistics, we show how our workflow can be used to lift a collection of interlinear-glossed Qiang texts (an endangered language spoken in Sichuan, China), and how the lifted data can assist linguists in their research.